Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

CAN WE COPE WITH SO MANY ASYLUM SEEKERS? ; Greater Manchester Houses One-in-Four of All Those Seeking Refuge in England - but David Cameron and Theresa May's Councils Have the Grand Total of ONE. There's No Extra Cash for Local Services and the Cracks Are Now Appearing

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

CAN WE COPE WITH SO MANY ASYLUM SEEKERS? ; Greater Manchester Houses One-in-Four of All Those Seeking Refuge in England - but David Cameron and Theresa May's Councils Have the Grand Total of ONE. There's No Extra Cash for Local Services and the Cracks Are Now Appearing

Article excerpt

IT'S an uncomfortable question. Some fear raising it - or voicing the strength of their answer too publicly - for fear of being branded a racist.

Parts of the left would deny it even needs discussing at all.

But it does have to be asked: Can the region cope with the sheer number of asylum seekers being placed in its poorest areas? Increasingly, residents and local politicians say No. One-in-four of England's asylum seekers are now in Greater Manchester, mostly in areas still clawing their way out of recession. It is a startling figure. Home Office statistics from November show the region now has more asylum seekers than Wales and Scotland put together. At around 1,000, Rochdale has more than the whole of the south east of England. Bolton isn't far behind.

Or to put it another way, Greater Manchester is accommodating 5,510 asylum seekers while David Cameron and Home Secretary's Theresa May's local councils - between them - only have ONE.

The reason for this dates back to Tony Blair. Fifteen years ago, a flurry of publicity about the rent being spent housing asylum seekers in the south east and London led to a new approach.

It was a simple one: they were shipped out to the places that have the cheapest housing. And that has carried on ever since.

More than a decade on, those communities are now feeling the strain. The areas with the cheapest housing - the Rochdales, the Oldhams - are inevitably often those already lagging behind in terms of jobs, skills, income, investment and quality of life.

They also already have the greatest reliance on public services and have seen the biggest council cuts in the country.

But because asylum seekers do not bring with them any extra government funding, those services - schools, councils and health services, particularly - are put under extra pressure without any additional funds. And that's before you get into the thorny issue of community cohesion.

The Home Office's contractor Serco used to be paid government cash not only for asylum seekers' rent, but to support them. That second part has since been scrapped, leaving councils to pick up the bill for a lot of problems.

Rochdale's Labour council leader is blunt. People are just being 'dumped' there.

"Most of them are single men," says Coun Richard Farnell. "Where they come with children we have to look after them and get no money from the government whatsoever. And obviously, then they put a strain on the health service and so on.

"Quite often, they are placed in the poorest areas where the housing is cheapest, so you get an over-concentration in one area.

"That causes tremendous community tension.

"We also have to deal with lots of low level anti-social behaviour problems. They are poorly supported by the Home Office's contractor, Serco, and are not allowed to work so have got no money and are hanging around causing problems in the local community. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.